How to Raise a Lady
In this increasingly casual world, our society is teaching our children that it is acceptable to wear sweatpants everywhere, paper plates are suitable for daily dining, “TTYL” is a generally appropriate parting, and proper grammar is unnecessary. You want something different for your daughter. You want to raise a lady. Below please find some helpful tips to accomplish your worth goal.
1. Lead by example; whether it is you or your nanny. To raise a lady, be a lady. Your daughter is watching what you do; she will emulate your behaviors. Ensure that your behaviors are the kind of behaviors you would like your daughter to emulate.
2. Surround your daughter with people who reinforce your values. Again, your daughter is watching those people in her environment and will emulate their behaviors. Choose carefully the behaviors to which you expose her.
3. Watch movies and television shows, read books, and access other media that reinforce your values. Again, you want to surround your daughter with an environment that supports the behaviors that you want her to exhibit. “Sense and Sensibility” will help accomplish that goal; “Pulp Fiction” will not.
4. Speak with your daughter openly and often about your expectations. Praise her when she has done well. Redirect her tactfully and privately when she has not. Clarify situation-specific behaviors. For example, it may be acceptable to wear sweatpants to the gymnasium, but it is not acceptable to wear sweatpants to church, to work, or to the mall. Paper plates are acceptable for picnics; daily use dinnerware sets are to be used for in-home dining of family only; china should be used when setting the dinner table when guests are expected. “TTYL” and other Internet-era acronyms are casual English and are appropriate only in casual English, Internet-specific circumstances, which do not include professional correspondence, handwritten correspondence, etc. Last, but certainly not least, while being supportive (or at least non-critical) of the choices of others is ladylike, a lady does not need to engage in similar behaviors as a measure of support or acceptance. Slang (including the words “ain’t” and “cain’t”) and mixing singular and plural nouns and verbs may be a common practice among many in our society, and ladies should not criticize others for their word choices, but ladies should not use such language themselves: this language ultimately creating impressions of the speaker that are unladylike. Similarly, some of your daughter’s classmates may slouch in their chairs at school; you prefer your daughter to maintain good posture and accept that her classmates may not. (Note: reinforce to your daughter that different people have different goals. If someone’s goal is to blend in, be “one of the gang”, then speaking the language of the group and slouching in school chairs may be appropriate relative to that goal. However, your goal for your daughter is for her to be a lady. Given that goal, proper English and good posture are more appropriate. When viewed in the context of the goal, the behaviors of others are less likely to seem “right” or “wrong” and more likely to seem “right for me” or “wrong for me”. Thus, acceptance of the behaviors of others – without emulation – becomes easier to achieve.)
5. Provide your daughter with opportunities to learn and practice the desired behaviors. For example, host a dinner party and teach your daughter how to set a formal dinner table and/or play family sports and teach your daughter how to win humbly and lose with grace.
One final note: a common misperception is that ladies expect gentlemen to perform a wide variety of tasks for them. While this was certainly true for prior generations, the subsequent comparative equality of the genders has created a more egalitarian definition of ladylike behaviors. A lady will let a gentleman open a door for her. When the two arrive at the next door, the lady will return the courtesy by opening the door for the gentleman. Being ladylike no longer means that a lady must wait for a gentleman to do things for her; it means returning courtesy for courtesy in gracious manner.
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